‘Govt yet to act against polluting industries’

SHILLONG: An environment activist from West Jaintia Hills, who is pursuing various pending issues affecting Meghalaya, said on Monday that despite the order of the Supreme Court to take action against industries flouting environment norms, the state government failed to act.
Earlier in the order on February 22 this year, the Supreme Court had directed states to strictly comply with its order on polluting industries.
The activist, Sajay Laloo, said other than issuing “lip service letters” to various polluting industries, no action has been taken against them till date.
According to the Apex Court order, industries requiring “consent to operate” can be permitted to run only with primary effluent treatment plants.
The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board is supposed to follow up the matter.
Laloo pointed out that after the careless attitude of the state government, the Supreme Court in the order on September 22 had said the state should make endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife of the country.
The order further said, “We are of the view that mere directions are inconsequential unless a rigid implementation mechanism is laid down.”
According to Laloo, neither the state pollution control board nor the secretary of the Forest Department has taken legal action against the errant industries. “Electricity connection is still provided to all the industries till date and not even a single criminal case has been registered,” he added.
He pointed out that in a recent communication received from the Forest Department, the official of the department clarified that it is not dealing with environment protection or conservation and that the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, which is supposed to be an autonomous statutory organisation, was created to deal with the matter.
“Interestingly, in case of the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, it is not an autonomous statutory organisation but under the administrative control of the Forest and Environment Department,” Laloo said.
He further pointed out that as per the letter on September 26 received from the Forest Department, it was mentioned that the department does not have a separate Directorate of Environment to deal with all matters relating to pollution and that any information on matters related to environment pollution was usually sought from the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board.
“Clearances to set up polluting industries were given in the midst of the thick forested areas adjacent to major rivers. It is surprising to see that the Forest Department, which is not at all involved in the protection and preservation of the environment, is given the task of issuing licence for mining minor minerals and destruction of the environment,” Laloo alleged.
He pointed out that the Forest Department has destroyed majority of the rich ecological system and natural habitats in Jaintia Hills through various mining licences and permissions issued to several parties and individuals.
According to Laloo, the office of the Deputy Commissioner, East Jaintia Hills district, had taken more than 140 days to provide certain information sought through the RTI Act regarding polluting industries.
“From May 17 till date, the office of the Deputy Commissioner, East Jaintia Hills, is yet to provide information on land transfer between tribals and non-tribals in the district. The state should stop talking about eco-tourism, sustainable development or environment preservation and climate changes when it does not mean what it says,” Laloo said.

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